The Navy's Nemesis

By David Abel  |  Defense Week  |  8/23/1999

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico -- After 100 days illegally camping on a patch of white sand here inside the Navy's premier bombing range, Carlos Ventura boasts more than a deep tan.

The sun-bronzed president of the local fishermen's association, who says he has moved for good onto the eastern edge of the island pockmarked with shell fragments, blown-out tanks and pulverized planes, has helped ensure the Navy doesn't test any more of its bombs here.

And he promises he won't leave until the Navy does.

"We will stay out here as long as necessary," says Ventura, 38, who was recently accompanied by at least 40 idling supporters on one of the range's bomb-strewn beaches. "The Navy has to go. There will be no compromise."

Ventura is one of scores of full-time protestors who thronged here soon after an F/A-18 jet mistakenly dropped two 500-pound bombs a mile and a half from its intended target in April, killing a 35-year-old civilian security guard and wounding four other Puerto Rican civilians monitoring the exercises for the Navy.

In addition to Ventura, protesters on the range include an independence-seeking local senator, the mayor of a town near San Juan who wants to make Puerto Rico the 51st U.S. state and others of varying political stripes fed up with the Navy's 58-year presence on Vieques.

They have become a thorn in the side of Capt. James Stark, the man who oversees Navy operations in Puerto Rico.

Navy cornered
Sitting almost 10 miles away in the comfort of his air-conditioned office at the sprawling Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Stark acknowledges the Navy is fighting an uphill battle to preserve its top training site.

"I have been amazed, disturbed, disgusted; I mean I've had a whole host of feelings over this whole issue," Stark told Defense Week. "The entire commonwealth government from the governor on down to the dogcatcher is lined up against the Navy .... I mean the bishop of Caguas was invited to attend an ecumenical service here at the base, and even he refused."

The simmering tension is due to come to a head by the end of this month, when a four-member presidentially commissioned panel chaired by Frank Rush, acting assistant secretary of defense for force management and policy, will issue recommendations on whether the Navy should remain in Vieques.

Conflict over the Navy's ownership of about three-fourths of this 51-square-mile island is nothing new. But this is the first time since the military began practicing bombing and amphibious assaults here in 1941 that Puerto Rico's political parties and environmental and religious groups are united in their effort to oust the Navy.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but pay no federal income taxes, have little representation in Congress and cannot vote in presidential elections. And when the Navy bought the land in Vieques, the island's governor was appointed by Washington and the territory lacked the political independence to make its own decisions.

No mas
For many of the island's current 9,300 residents sandwiched between a Navy arms depot and the bombing range, the accidental death of David Sanes Rodriguez on April 19 was the straw that broke the camel's back. They had lived with thunder of exploding bombs almost every other day and sometimes they protested. But this was it.

"We have tried to live with the Navy, and we know they are important for our national security," said Manuela Santiago, Vieques mayor for the past 16 years, in an interview in her small office at the local city hall. "But after the death of David, we had enough. We don't want to wait for another accident. One that might fall in the municipal areas."

Although she says she has had a good working relationship with the Navy for most of her term, she has grown increasingly wary of the sea service's word and now no longer trusts men like Stark.

For her and many residents, the Navy has lost its credibility. She says, for example, she cannot accept dubious statements Navy officials have made about the use of napalm, the firing of uranium-tipped bullets or the service's use of water on the island. And like many, she is suspicious the Navy has something to do with a cancer rate here 27 percent higher than on the main island.

Still, not everyone on Vieques wants the Navy out. An expatriate community of about 400 northerners, as well as some natives, say they fear the island would be overrun by commercialism if the Navy leaves.

"I wouldn't mind if the bombing stopped, but it would probably ruin the island if the military pulled out," said Everett Gallant, 56, a restaurateur from Maine who has lived here for more than 20 years. "People fear it might become another St. Thomas. We live here because the life is slow and easy. We don't want that to change."

National security needs
For its part, the Navy has argued adamantly that it would be a big blow to national security if the service was forced out. Only about 10 miles from the Navy's largest base, Vieques is part of a massive training zone that includes 200,000 square miles of uncongested air and sea space and is the only site where the Atlantic Fleet can do live ship-to-shore shooting involving full battle groups, Navy officials say.

Furthermore, the long-developed infrastructure is worth billions of dollars, including a sophisticated submarine training range between Vieques and the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas.
And the longer protesters such as Ventura, the fisherman, don't budge and political leaders in Washington refuse to evict them, the more damage it will do to Navy readiness, Stark says.

Already the USS John F. Kennedy battle group, which had its training halted after a 26-year-old Marine Corps pilot missed his target and killed the security guard, deployed with incomplete training. And Stark says he doubts the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower battle group, due down late next month, will be able to use Vieques.

"For her, I don't know how they're going to do it," Stark said. "It's something everybody I know is concerned about. And without Vieques, I don't see how they can get the kind of training they need."

As the debate wears on and political pressure converges on the White House, analysts say they see the Navy fighting a losing battle.

Some, including Stark, say it's not unlikely the fate of Vieques will be the same as the smaller Puerto Rican island Culebra, where a similar eruption of protests forced the Navy to shut down training operations in 1975.

"This is an orgy of nationalism that is essentially cultural and symbolic," said Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua, a Puerto Rican political analyst and author. "I agree the Navy is fighting a losing battle. I don't foresee any compromise."

He said the Navy is unlikely to survive the probable islandwide demonstrations that would follow the arrest of protestors camped out on Vieques.

Other analysts say with Hillary Rodham Clinton as a likely Senate candidate from New York, where there's a large Puerto Rican population, the president may be less inclined to side with the Navy.

"It's not clear to me that the Navy's going to win this," said a congressional source tracking the issue. "The White House may do everything they can to avoid the anger of Puerto Ricans."

In the final outcome, however, neither the Navy nor the protesters might end up clear winners or losers. As the Rush Commission, which Puerto Ricans have charged is unfairly tilted toward the Pentagon, nears its decision, some smell a compromise.

And the Navy has signaled its interest in reaching a settlement.
Stark and other officials have said they would consider turning over the western edge of the island, reducing the number of live-fire testing days and working closer with the island's leaders to increase economic opportunity and environmental-preservation efforts.

But with Puerto Rico's attorney general threatening to take the Navy to court over Vieques if the issue isn't otherwise resolved and protesters such as Ventura making himself comfortable with such amenities as a small chapel, a healthy store of food and many supporters to pass the days playing dominoes, Puerto Ricans say they will settle for only one outcome.

"The Navy must leave," Ventura says. "There's nothing else to talk about."

Copyright, Defense Week

Closing Prized Jungle Warfare Base

Farewell to a Tarzan training ground

By David Abel
The Christian Science Monitor


WASHINGTON -- Jim Smit remembers crawling through mud on the floor of a triple-canopy jungle, sweating in the equatorial heat, and breathing silently to avoid the enemy.

There were snakes and crocodiles and other fearsome creatures. Once he captured and killed a 15-foot boa constrictor. There was the dense and endless foliage, which made radios useless. And there was the food: bugs for dinner, washed down with water tapped from a nonpoisonous root.

But somehow, the former National Guard platoon sergeant and Korean War veteran considers the weeks at the Army's Jungle Warfare Training Center at the US base in Panama one of the best experiences in his life.

"Short of combat, it was the best military training you could have," says Mr. Smit, now a retired machinist living in Tustin, Calif. "Besides the cougars and the snakes, it was great. I would do it again if I could."

Like many other soldiers who studied or taught jungle warfare at Fort Sherman, Smit regrets the Army's decision not to replace the 46-year-old school after the US military presence vanishes from Panama at the end of this year.

The Carter-Torrijos Treaty signed in 1977 requires the United States to turn over its more than 23,000-acre military base and control of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian government by Dec. 31, 1999.

The military already has begun moving its units and equipment out of Panama.

The jungle warfare school closed April 1, and the American flag will come down for good June 30 at Fort Sherman.

The Army spent $ 1.2 million to operate the school and $ 700,000 each time it sent one of the 12 battalions that trained annually at Fort Sherman. Officials decided it was too expensive to relocate the school.

"We did consider other sites," says Lt. Col. George Frels of the Department of Army Training at the Pentagon. "But without the proper infrastructure, it was cost-prohibitive. What we are losing is an excellent environment."

Unlike Smit and other soldiers who trained in the forbidding Panamanian jungles, Colonel Frels and senior Pentagon officials say the Army doesn't believe it will suffer in readiness, though some 9,000 US soldiers will no longer train each year at Fort Sherman.

Frels says similar "unit cohesion" skills can be taught at existing bases in Louisiana and Florida. But some military analysts say the unparalleled conditions in Panama cannot be re-created anywhere in the US.

"What US soldiers could be missing in the future is an appreciation of the ground truth," says Dan Goure, a former Pentagon strategist and now deputy director of military-political studies at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's similar to when we left the Philippines. We left some very good training grounds."

The US began training its military in Panama in 1916, two years after the 50-mile canal was opened to traffic under US control. But serious training in Panama didn't occur until 1943, when America fought the Japanese in the rugged jungles throughout the Pacific islands.

The Jungle Warfare Training Center opened in June 1953, after military officials fighting the Korean War promised to keep the art of jungle warfare alive in the Army. "Had we had the same kind of training before the Inchon and Iwon invasions and the trek north to the Yalu River, we might have taken many less casualties [in Korea]," says Smit, who attended the school in 1967.

Fort Sherman gained its reputation for being one of the Army's most grueling training grounds during the Vietnam War. From 1961 to 1967, the number of its graduates grew from 1,700 to 9,145 a year, and soldiers like Smit say it was crucial to the military's ability to wage war in Vietnam.

Since then, the school has focused on training special operations forces and bringing soldiers from nations around the world to train with the US Army. In late 1989, when the United States invaded Panama, forces based permanently at Fort Sherman helped secure the Panama Canal, guard prisoners of war, and patrol nearby villages.

"Soldiers who have trained in the jungles at Fort Sherman claim there is nowhere else in the world that this training can be replicated," says Capt. Larry Winchel, a spokesman for the remaining forces of US Army South still in Panama. "It's really the end of an era."

A quick glance at the jungle warfare school's Web site reveals widespread concern that the Army is forfeiting its expertise in jungle fighting. On the site's bulletin board, former students and instructors praise the school and lament its closure:

"It amazes me that there has been a decision to discontinue the training," writes Maj. Steven Roscoe. "It was one of the highlights of my 20-1/2 year career! Sad that era has to end," signs MSgt. Michael Tsung. "It is a crime that it is being closed down. Readiness will surely suffer," writes mortar platoon infantryman Paul Cox.

Soldiers hold the school's training in high regard partly because they quickly learn the jungle is the great equalizer. The modern technology that so often separates America's military from others is often useless in a jungle, as the US learned in Vietnam: Radio signals can't penetrate thick vegetation; there's not enough light after sunset to power night-vision goggles; and hand-held satellite navigation receivers can't get a clear signal.

Sergeant Smit still remembers what it felt like to slog through swamps in 95-degree heat shortly after arriving in Panama (a change from the below-zero temperatures of his unit's base in Michigan). It was the sort of training every soldier should have, he says. "We learned how to survive."

Finding Flaws in Missile Defense

By David Abel  |  Globe Staff  |  3/04/2002

A Pentagon agency, two major military contractors, and an independent research team led by MIT scientists produced flawed studies that exaggerated the success of a key test used to justify spending billions of dollars on the fledgling national missile defense program, according to two reports obtained by the Globe.

The long-awaited reports, to be released today by the General Accounting Office, detail the flawed analysis of critical missile-defense technologies provided by the contractors, Boeing Co. and TRW, verified by senior researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, and hailed by the Pentagon's recently renamed Missile Defense Agency.

In reports about a highly sophisticated sensor used in the first test of the missile-defense program - a technology similar to one now designed for the vital task of distinguishing decoys from warheads - contractors described its performance as "excellent" and the overall test as a "success." The team directed by two MIT scientists, which evaluated the contractors' reports of the test, pronounced them "basically sound." And officials in the Missile Defense Agency called the first test of the technology in space "highly successful."

Yet the review by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found that crucial elements of the 1997 test failed - prompting investigators to raise questions about the oversight of a program that has already cost billions of dollars and could, if the Bush administration has its way, ultimately cost taxpayers as much as $238 billion, according to a recent estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

"The data are garbage - they had to use all these software shenanigans and throw out two-thirds of the data to make it look like a success," said a congressional source close to the GAO investigation. "Up to now, there has been no independent verification of the contractors' claims. This pulls out the rug from those calling the test a success. By any definition, there's no way to call it a success."

The main defect in the test, according to the GAO, was that the infrared sensor built by Boeing failed to cool to a sufficient temperature to function properly. Also, the power supply of the sensor turned out to be much louder than expected. The excess heat and noise, missile specialists said, caused a significant distortion, by a factor of up to 200 times, in the ability of the sensor to detect targets. As a result, the sensor often detected targets where none existed.

The performance of the sensor is crucial because the planned land-based national missile defense system might have only one chance to hit its target. And once the military launches an antimissile against an incoming ballistic missile, military analysts say they believe it would almost certainly face a barrage of decoys. Moving at great speeds, it would have to distinguish the fake from the real in a matter of minutes.

Regarding what became known in defense circles as the "MIT study," a review of the contractors' findings that the Pentagon used to champion missile defense spending, the GAO faulted the team led by scientists at Lincoln Lab for relying on data processed by TRW - instead of seeking the contractor's raw data.

Although the team reported that TRW's sensor contained a few software glitches, GAO investigators said the scientists' use of the processed data allowed them to review only 14 of 54 seconds worth of data. The limited look at the sensor's performance, according to the GAO, skewed the scientists' review and led them to pronounce the sensor's software well designed and say it worked properly.

The failure to review the raw data, investigators wrote in the report, means "the team cannot be said to have definitively proved or disproved TRW's claim that its software successfully discriminated the mock warhead from the decoys."

For MIT physicist Theodore Postol, a frequent critic of the Pentagon's missile defense plans, the omissions of his colleagues and their stamp of approval for the Missile Defense Agency amounts to scientific fraud. Postol recently lodged complaints with the MIT Corporation about the study - charging that the university's president, Charles M. Vest, knew of the alleged misconduct and did nothing about it.

"This certainly has the appearance of a well-orchestrated fraud," Postol said. "The managers at Lincoln Lab either knew or should have known that this experiment was a total failure - and they falsely represented it as a success. The implications of that deceit could cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars."

MIT officials did not return calls for comment. But Roger Sudbury, a spokesman for Lincoln Lab, told the Globe last month that the Lexington-based research arm of MIT received no complaints from contractors or the Pentagon about their review, and he said, "There is no evidence of fraud."

Lieutenant Colonel Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, which oversees the Pentagon's effort to develop an overlapping air, land, sea, and space-based missile shield, insisted that, as far as he knows, the sensor guiding Boeing's "kill vehicle" worked as planned.

Still, in the scheme of the overall missile defense plan, he said, the 1997 test is irrelevant. Not long after the test, the Pentagon decided to use a sensor built by Raytheon Corp., one with "totally different" technology than the one designed by Boeing.

"I would guess our people will take issue with this report," Lehner said. "At face value, the only thing I was told was that the Boeing kill vehicle did discriminate against the decoys and warhead. Until the agency tells me otherwise, I have to go with that."

The GAO reports, requested by Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and two other members of Congress, were sought nearly two years ago after Postol sent the White House a detailed analysis of the 1997 test, alleging both Boeing and TRW misrepresented the results.

The MIT professor analyzed the raw data of the test, which he obtained through Nira Schwartz, a senior staff engineer at TRW who was fired after she reported that the software her company developed would not distinguish decoys from warheads. Schwartz, who is suing TRW, and Postol insisted it's a fallacy to say the 1997 test is irrelevant.

Because both the Boeing and Raytheon sensor use "infrared eyes," "It's the equivalent of looking at a bunch of suitcases with only your eyes and trying to find a bomb inside," Postol said. "If I give you a telescope, a microscope, or dark glasses when you look at the suitcase, none will tell you which has the bomb."

Despite the allegations, the GAO studies stop short of calling the reports and exaggerated results fraud. Unlike most GAO reports, and despite congressional requests for them, they don't include recommendations.

The reason, another congressional source close to the investigation said, is political. The reports, delayed by sluggish responses from the Pentagon and contractors for documents, were vetted very closely to avoid casting too much blame on any one party, the source said.

"Much of the findings were buried inside the text and purposely written in technical language so as not to highlight many things," the source said. "There are many political pressures, and the report was certainly edited for political reasons."

With billions of dollars at stake and $100 million a pop for each antimissile test, a lot is riding on whether it is technically possible to build a national missile defense that works. Over the past five years, three out of the five anti missile tests hit their targets. But during that time, the tests have been downgraded in complexity, now using only one decoy that is much larger and brighter than the mock warhead.

For the Bush administration, which vowed to build a robust national missile defense during its campaign two years ago, fielding a viable system is one of its highest priorities. In December, President Bush announced the United States would withdraw in June from the 30-year-old ABM treaty, which bars a nationwide missile shield.

In a statement about the GAO reports, Markey, who has proposed a bill calling for independent oversight of the missile shield, cautioned that relying on questionable technology could amount to a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.

"The national missile defense program needs independent oversight and testing milestones to ensure that it works before we spend countless billions of dollars deploying it," he said. "If it can't tell the warhead apart from a decoy, what good is it?"

David Abel can be reached by e-mail at

Copyright, The Boston Globe


By David Abel
Globe Staff


After nearly a year reviewing allegations of scientific fraud at MIT, a senior professor called for a full investigation into whether MIT scientists knowingly gave their seal of approval to a major component of the fledgling national missile defense program that did not work.

Over the past year, some professors at MIT have vigorously criticized the university for a 1999 report that validated a crucial missile defense test for the Pentagon. Though researchers at the university's Lexington-based Lincoln Laboratory said sensors in the missile defense system worked as the manufacturer claimed, investigators later found that the sensors could not have worked properly, and critics have said MIT participated in a coverup.

In two reports released last March, congressional investigators confirmed that the studies by MIT scientists were flawed. But the question remains whether scientists or managers at Lincoln Labs made a simple scientific mistake or engaged in deliberate fraud, producing favorable results that helped the Pentagon justify spending billions of dollars on national missile defense.

The university appointed Ed Crawley, chairman of the aeronautics and astronautics department, to look into the allegations. In a letter provided to the Globe, Charlene M. Placido, an assistant dean for research, wrote that Crawley has decided "to recommend an investigation . . . under MIT's scientific misconduct policies."

Crawley did not return calls for comment and university officials would not release his report.

"The reason for confidentiality is simple: The reputations of individuals are at stake," Massachusetts Institute of Technology spokesman Ken Campbell wrote in a statement.

Also at stake is the university's academic reputation for independent scientific review, which critics say was compromised by MIT's interest in maintaining hundreds of millions of dollars in annual government contracts.

In recommending an investigation, Crawley seemed to reverse his previous findings. In a draft report sent to administrators this summer, he called the Lincoln Labs study "a well-reasoned analysis," adding "not only do I find no evidence of research misconduct, but I also find no credible evidence of technical error."

Senior administrators contacted this week would not say why Crawley has now called for an investigation or whether the university will follow his recommendations. MIT provost Robert Brown, who also did not return calls, will decide in coming months whether the university should investigate.

The call for an investigation represents a small victory for MIT physicist Theodore Postol, who alerted administrators to the possible fraud in April 2001 and has since urged them to launch a full inquiry. In the past year, Postol sent university officials and members of Congress thousands of pages to support his allegations of scientific fraud.

"This isn't simply a case of bad or fraudulent science, it was quite likely obstruction of justice - and every major official at the university has been fully aware of this," said Postol, who believes administrators misled federal investigators and want to avoid a full investigation.

"My hope is that whoever finally investigates this case, it will be free of bias," he added.

MIT officials wouldn't comment on Postol's allegations. But in the statement released by Campbell, they said: "Professor Postol knows what the MIT policies say about confidentiality, and if he chooses to disregard them, he will have violated those policies."

In response, Postol said: "Evidence of criminality is not covered under MIT's confidentiality rules."

Postol's allegations arose out of a lawsuit by a senior staff engineer at TRW, one of the main contractors for the missile defense system. The engineer, Nira Schwartz, alleged that the contractor had falsified results of a 1997 test, which the Pentagon later said proved that the system could correctly distinguish warheads from decoys, a vital task for any missile-defense system. The Lincoln Labs scientists were given data by TRW and confirmed the positive results.

Postol later assessed the raw test data himself and argued that there was no way scientists at Lincoln Labs could have approved the contractor's data in good faith. Two reports by the General Accounting Office validated his finding in March, saying the infrared sensors failed to cool sufficiently, producing a distortion that made it impossible for the sensor to properly detect warheads.

The Pentagon ultimately chose not to buy the TRW sensor, opting for a version built by Raytheon that uses similar infrared technology.

One of the five senior MIT researchers who did the review declined to comment yesterday. But Ming-Jer Tsai, a Lincoln Labs senior staff researcher, called it "strange" that Crawley initially found no problems with their work and then called for an investigation.

"I was surprised to realize there was a reversal of the professor's position," he said. "I don't want to speculate what changed his mind."

Postol said he believes Tsai and the other researchers could not have simply overlooked the data that showed that the missile system did not work. He believes there was a deliberate effort to misrepresent the results.

"I don't know who the responsible parties are," he said. "I just know there was fraud - and someone has to be held accountable."

David Abel can be reached at

By David Abel
The Boston Globe


As the debate heats up over whether the United States should build a national missile defense, one of the program's leading critics, an MIT professor, is charging the Pentagon with trying to silence him.

This week, three agents from the Pentagon's Defense Security Service arrived unannounced at Theodore A. Postol's office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They said they came to show the outspoken physicist classified documents, Postol said.

But Postol said he refused to look at the papers stamped "SECRET." Recalling the Army's attempt to classify his critical analysis of Raytheon Corp.'s Patriot missile after the 1991 Gulf War, he believes the agents' visit was a ruse to prevent him from speaking out further against the proposed antimissile system, which has already cost at least $60 billion.

"I definitely saw this as potential for entrapment and a means of intimidation," said Postol, so miffed he wrote a letter to John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff, after the Wednesday morning visit. "By showing me classified information, they could say I was talking about classified information. I saw it as a means of abridging my First-Amendment rights."

The surprise visit came more than a month after Postol, once one of the military's top science advisers, made headlines after a letter he wrote to the White House detailed potential pitfalls in the Clinton administration's missile-defense plan and exposed what he says is evidence of a cover-up.

In the letter, the 54-year-old professor explained why he and many scientists believe current technology is incapable of defeating a ballistic missile attack. The essence of his dissent is that the system being developed can't differentiate a potential enemy's decoys from its warheads. A few balloons, he said, might be sufficient to fool current or future antimissiles.

But shortly after the letter arrived at the White House, officials sent it to the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Office. Officials there promptly classified Postol's findings, even though the letter had already been posted on the Internet. The move echoed the Army's attempt to muzzle him after the Gulf War, Postol said.

Although Postol says he never received a call before the Pentagon agents popped into his office, and accuses the security service of improperly handling secret documents, a Defense Security Service spokeswoman said the agents repeatedly tried to contact the professor and followed strict protocol in presenting the information.

Caryl Clubb, a Defense Security Service spokeswoman, said the agents went to Postol's office to deliver a letter from the service's deputy chief of staff for industrial security. The document detailed areas in which Postol's White House letter contained classified information, she said.

"The purpose of our visit was to prevent the further disclosure of classified information," Clubb said. "We in no way, shape or form meant to get him to stop speaking out."

But Postol and others describe the visit as a tactic they say the government has used before to silence informed dissidents with high-level security clearances. A scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations in the 1980s, Postol has top-secret clearances at the departments of energy and defense.

Yet all the information he assembled in his White House letter, he contends, came from a lawsuit filed by a senior engineer against the military contractor TRW Inc., which accused the contractor of sending the Pentagon fraudulent performance reports about a key portion of the antimissile system.

If Postol had consented to view the letter, he said, he would be obliged not to talk about its contents, even if the information was identical to what he previously published. The penalty for revealing the contents of a classified document ranges from the loss of security clearances to a prison sentence.

"This entire episode is Kafkaesque," said Democratic US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden, who said he plans to ask the General Accounting Office to investigate. "First, you have the government classifying a report raising questions about potential fraud . . . then you have government agents showing up at the author's office, trying to force him to read a classified document that he doesn't want to read."

Joseph Cirincione, director of the Nonproliferation Center at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it "appears they were trying to force feed him classified material for reasons other than his education on this matter."

Jennifer Weeks, a former congressional military analyst who runs a project on nuclear policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the episode might have been a clumsy attempt to explain the missile program to Postol.

"I think it's plausible this was an effort to silence him," she said. "It also may have just been a dumb, badly managed way of showing him classified information."

Postol, though, has no doubts.

"This wasn't an accident," he said. "They know what they were doing."

America's Maginot Line?

Missile System's Best Defense is Public Opinion ... Sort Of

By David Abel  |  Globe Staff  |  1/28/2001

Top scientific groups and 50 Nobel Prize-winning scientists call it "premature, wasteful, and dangerous." A highly classified intelligence report warns it could provoke China to expand its nuclear arsenal tenfold and prompt Russia to add warheads to its ballistic missiles. And initial tests of the $60 billion system have for the most part flopped.

Nevertheless, a national missile defense system is likely to be under construction by year's end.

Those who doubt that needed only to listen to the words Friday of newly-sworn Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Although he declined to put a date on deployment, he said that President Bush's overall intentions are crystal clear: "He intends to deploy." And the White House will do so despite objections from Russia and other countries.

Expect the move sooner rather than later. A new Pentagon timetable requires Bush to decide by March whether to authorize initial construction on a powerful radar station in Alaska. If he chooses to delay his decision, the ultimate deployment of a missile defense system would face slowdowns that Republicans have warned against for years.

Given the system's high price and acknowledged flaws - including last summer's failed test - one might think the president will pay a political price for proceeding with construction. But that presumption ignores one critical fact: A majority of voters are squarely behind it.

Why? The answer, analysts say, includes the dwindling relevance of the country's oceanic moats, buffers that have long provided a national sense of immunity to invasion; widespread ignorance of the system's details and its political implications; the nation's nearly religious faith in technology; and the way pollsters ask questions.

"There has always been a longing to escape the horrors of the missile age," says Edward Linenthal, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and author of a critical book about the system called "Symbolic Defense." "Missile defense has a wonderful prolife message," he says. " 'It's better to kill missiles than people.' "

From the invention of ironclad warships during the Civil War to the atomic bomb in World War II to the smart bombs and cruise missiles used last year in Kosovo, the United States has repeatedly mesmerized the world with its ability to field the most technologically sophisticated weapons.

Those dazzling engineering achievements have infected Americans with the notion that the country's technological might can overcome any barrier. Whatever the project, Americans tend to doubt naysayers, believing "where there's a will, there's a way."

When considering a national missile defense, analysts say, it's more probable that Americans make the analogy to the country's ability to land men on the moon than the one many scientists use: the Maginot Line, France's attempt to seal its eastern border after World War I and make itself invulnerable to Germany.

Like France's preposterously elaborate fortifications, which took 15 years to build and Nazi Germany only three days to circumvent in 1940, critics of US missile defense say it surely will fall - or at least be rendered irrelevant - because of a clever enemy's creative method of attack.

"It's misleading to give the American people the idea that we can isolate ourselves and defend against a nuclear attack," said Jack Shanahan, a retired vice admiral of the Navy and chair of the military advisory committee for Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, a Washington-based group that monitors defense spending. "A country with the ability to build a ballistic missile could surely find many ways to attack."

Since the beginning of the Cold War, the United States has relied on two principal policies to avert a nuclear confrontation: arms control agreements and Mutually Assured Destruction, the vow to annihilate, through the use of nuclear weapons, any nation that attacks the United States with nuclear weapons.

There's no reason the decades-old deterrence strategy would not ward off such future attacks, critics say. A determined aggressor, unlikely to commit national suicide, is more likely to deliver a suitcase-sized nuclear weapon to the United States clandestinely by truck than overtly by intercontinental ballistic missile. Moreover, analysts warn, the deployment of a national missile defense might jeopardize arms control progress, as it would violate existing treaties and probably be viewed as a direct threat to nations such as Russia and China.

Still, something fascinates Americans about the idea of an impenetrable missile shield.

The idea is as old as the nuclear age. And for a short period in the 1970s, the United States did have a limited defense. After the US-Soviet 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty - which allows each nation to field 100 interceptors but specifically bars national missile defenses - the United States built a $23.5 billion system called "Safeguard" to protect missile silos in Grand Forks, N.D. Because of its inadequacy, the US government abandoned the system 135 days after building it.

The missile defense scheme was reincarnated in 1983, when President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, a space-based antimissile system later dubbed "Star Wars." But after the Pentagon invested billions in it, technical difficulties and the fall of the Soviet Union ended the program.

"After all these years, polls show many people believe the USA already has a national missile defense system," said Robert Pfaltzgraff, professor of international security studies at the Fletcher School of Government at Tufts University. "They think the government isn't leveling with the people. They refuse to believe we are vulnerable to a missile attack."

Yet the United States remains far from erecting a shield. But like many government programs, the national missile defense project has never died. Millions of dollars continue to flow each year to the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Office, which plans to conduct more than a dozen tests of a modified national missile defense system before 2005.

That's the date a commission headed by Rumsfeld warned that the United States could face the threat of missile attacks from countries including North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.

The Pentagon is still pursuing the Clinton administration's plan to deploy 100 interceptors at a base in Alaska and a network of sophisticated radar systems around the world, including the one on Alaska's Sheyma Island that Bush is expected to contract out for construction in the next few weeks. If construction doesn't begin this spring - which Russia argues would violate the ABM Treaty - deployment could be delayed until 2007.

While most polls show Americans consistently support the principle of a national missile defense, critics say support falls off when pollsters ask more than whether people would favor such a system.

If people are told the plan is unlikely to work, might provoke an arms race, and costs billions of dollars that might be better spent on other military programs, the majority slips into a minority.

According to a recent nationwide New York Times/CBS poll, for example, 58 percent of Americans said they favor national missile defense. When told that the United States has already spent $60 billion over the years trying to develop the system, the support dropped to 48 percent. And when pollsters asked if the people would support missile defense if many scientists concluded it's unlikely to work, support fell to 25 percent.

"The simple answer to why Americans say they support missile defense: Who would not want to defend America?" said Stephen Young, deputy director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, an arms control group based in Washington. "But once you get into the details, something else becomes clear: It all depends on how you frame the issue."

Preparing for Casualties

'Bringing Good Medicine to Bad Places'

By David Abel  |  Globe Staff  |  10/23/2001

They were there, ironically, to provide medical support for Army Rangers making a nighttime assault on a Taliban-held airport in southern Afghanistan. But when the dust cleared from the Black Hawk helicopter crash, two men were dead and three injured. In addition, two Rangers were hurt parachuting to the attack site - reminders of the human cost of ground combat.

Still, the Black Hawk's presence in the night sky over Pakistan last week vividly illustrates the US approach to casualties in the coming ground war: Get them help fast and get them out fast.

The helicopters are flying ambulances, carrying everything from bandages that speed clotting to defibrillators that can spark hearts back to life. They can reach wounded soldiers and evacuate them at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.

In modern field medicine, speed is paramount. The faster a wounded soldier gets to a hospital, the better his chance of survival.

As military planners prepare for the first large-scale US ground combat since 1991, they must contend with the harsh reality of battlefield medicine: Despite experienced doctors and years of progress in medical science, the Army's ability to save lives on the battlefield itself hasn't improved much since the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

"It's really sad to say, but almost all of the medical advances have come from after the soldier reaches the doctor," said Col. Robert Vandre, director of Combat Casualty Care Research at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
"The reason is bleeding," said Dr. Robert Mosebar, a retired Army colonel who has witnessed both the advances and intractable problems in battlefield medicine since World War II.

About 50 percent of those wounded in battle die of blood loss from a severed major artery or an internal hemorrhage that failed to clot in the critical time of about 30 minutes, explained Mosebar, a former World War II medic who went on to help plan combat medical operations at the Army Medical Command.

"We are looking at a lot of things, but I don't think we have really answered the problem," he said.

Although hospitals' abilities to heal soldiers has improved steadily since World War I, about 20 percent of those wounded in battle during the Vietnam and Gulf wars died before reaching a doctor - roughly the same rate as during the Civil War, according to doctors at the Army Medical Command in San Antonio.

To improve the survival rate, the research wing of the military, called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, envisions a future in which soldiers would wear monitors that track their vital signs - and signal the nearest medic when they're hurt - while medics of the future would carry stretchers with built-in intensive-care units.

But those ideas remain in development. For now, the military has been focusing on sending in the best-equipped staff it can - especially for special-forces operations like the one being mounted in Afghanistan. The Army Rangers and other commandos in that country's hostile landscape will be supported by special-operations medics who have more training than their counterparts elsewhere in the military.

While today's average Army medic carries a set of equipment similar to the 40-pound rucksack soldiers hauled in World War II and has only about 10 weeks of first-aid training, medics in the special-operations squads now likely in Afghanistan have more than a year's worth of intensive medical training and carry the latest life-saving medical gear.

An Army Ranger, for example, now carries a Palm Pilot device storing reams of basic medical information, a satellite phone to consult doctors, GPS devices to monitor their life signs, advanced antibiotics such as Cipro and a variety of other medications, immobilization equipment, centrifuges to test blood, and surgical kits to remove shrapnel and suture wounds.

"The biggest difference now in capabilities is the training," said Col. Kevin Keenan, dean of the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., explaining how since 1996 special forces medics have trained with paramedics at hospitals in New York City and Tampa. "But our ability to intervene in casualties in the first hour is perhaps no different than before."

For all their knowledge and equipment, the military medics' most important job may remain what it was back in the Korean War - calling in choppers.
The helicopter, more than any other development since World War II, reduced the time it took to evacuate casualties, allowing soldiers to survive wounds that previously would have killed them.

"For the first time in Korea, but much more so in Vietnam, a soldier could be picked up at the point of wounding and be evacuated in the middle of a firefight," said Dr. Robert J.T. Joy, a former Army colonel and the retired chairman of the medical history department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland. "That made a huge difference."

In Vietnam, medical personnel took helicopter medicine to a new plateau, largely because the huge number of casualties - 200,000 killed or wounded - fostered a strong system of field hospitals and helicopter rescue units.

Now, with larger, faster, and more sophisticated helicopters, the United States can get people off the battlefield even more rapidly. Today's Black Hawk is like a Corvette compared to the Chevette-like Huey from the Vietnam era.

But a fast helicopter helps only if it can reach the wounded soldier, something that is tough to do in irregular combat of the type American troops are expected to face in Afghanistan. In the chaos of the failed 1993 peacekeeping mission in Somalia, one soldier died from a groin injury when he couldn't be evacuated and medics couldn't stop the bleeding for more than two hours.

"The benefits of a speedy evacuation has a limit," Joy said. "Now the challenge is bringing better treatment to the battlefield."

At the Uniformed Services University, officials refer to that task as "bringing good medicine to bad places." And it has a long and valiant, if bloody, history. During the Revolutionary War, a medic attending to wounded soldiers had little more than a tourniquet to control bleeding and an axe to chop off an infected limb.

By World War I, wounded soldiers received blood transfusions at hospitals close to the front lines. Doctors there practiced advanced forms of trauma surgery and could treat infection and shock.

Medical advances since then - primarily penicillin and other antibiotics - have also significantly improved a soldier's chance of surviving serious wounds by reducing the number of infections. The rate of those who died after making it alive to a doctor has steadily improved, from 8 percent of all wounded in action in World War I to little more than 2 percent in Vietnam, according to the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Maryland.

Unfortunately, military medical officials say, the ability to treat patients on the battlefield has reached a plateau.

Military planners are keenly aware of the need for first-rate medical support. A report by the General Accounting Office in 1995 rapped the Pentagon for fielding "inadequate" medical teams to the Persian Gulf in 1991 and said the military didn't have the expertise or resources to treat a large number of casualties.

Now, small but sophisticated teams of about 20 medical personnel follow every brigade in what the Army today calls "Forward Surgical Teams," a successor to the more stationary MASH units in Korea. Behind each division is a larger field hospital. And today regular soldiers get far more medical training than they ever did.

In recent years, some military doctors have worked at urban hospitals that get large numbers of trauma victims, while Black Hawk pilots honed their skills by responding to accidents in remote locations in California.

Howard Champion, senior advisor on trauma at the Uniformed Services University, seemed to foreshadow the pressure on medical personnel at a military health care conference in Washington last January, when he described their role in the next ground war. "They've got to do it right the first time, because CNN is over there - and they are going to get increasingly critical."

Some military medical officials see remarkable promise in new blood-clotting technologies, some of which may now be carried by soldiers in Afghanistan.
One device being tested in the field is a special "hemostatic" bandage that uses fibrin to speed clotting. Another piece of equipment coming into use is portable ultrasound monitors, enabling medics to locate internal bleeding and fractures.

More high-tech solutions may be in store down the road. Although it may take years before they would work on the battlefield, surgical robots are being designed to carry out commands by doctors a continent away.

"These devices don't make sense in today's battlefield, especially in rough or urban terrain," said Dr. Richard Satava, a professor of surgery at Yale who recently ran the advanced biomedical technologies program at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. "But telemedicine is here. It works. And it's just a question of whether and when we want to use it."

As important as technology is to saving soldiers, 77-year-old Dr. Mosebar, who was brought back from retirement recently to help the Army Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio plan for the future, said nothing will ever replace a well-trained medic. "When the going gets rough, and the blood starts flowing, the medics are dear to everyone's hearts. The combat medic will always be a little god to soldiers wounded in battle."

David Abel can be reached at

Firing on Drug Boats

Despite New Resolve, U.S. Lacks Firepower In Drug War

By David Abel  |  Defense Week  |  9/20/1999

WASHINGTON -- On a bright August day somewhere in the Caribbean, the pilot of a Coast Guard Falcon eyed the telltale mark of what now accounts for about 85 percent of drug runners' means of ferrying their cargo by sea to the United States: a sleek, ocean-going speedboat carving a swath of white in the great glassy blue.

Two Coast Guard helicopters were dispatched from a nearby cutter and quickly confirmed other obvious signs of smuggling on the boat's open deck: barrels of fuel, apparent bales of marijuana and no national flags. When Spanish-speaking agents hailed the men on the boat, the suspects increased their speed.

So the agents employed newly approved measures that the Coast Guard has not used since the days of Prohibition: firing on boats from aircraft.

First, they tried to stall the engine with a motor-entangling contraption. Then they dropped a rubber-bullet grenade. Still not stopping the suspects, the agents fired about 100 rounds from an M240 machine gun, warning shots over the bow. Even that wouldn't halt the boat.

So a sharpshooter aboard one of the helicopters, with approval from the Coast Guard commandant, fired four shots from a .50-caliber rifle and destroyed the speedboat's two Yamaha outboard engines. The result: three arrests, 2,200 pounds of marijuana and 5 gallons of hashish oil confiscated.

Despite the Coast Guard's new policy, which has been in effect since the spring, the August seizure was one of only four successful interdiction missions the United States has launched against increasingly crafty traffickers using "go-fast" boats.

Drug runners in the hard-to-detect speedboats now make about 400 trips per year from South America to the United States, according to Coast Guard estimates. But between July 1998 and July 1999, U.S. law-enforcement officers only boarded 16 of the powerful boats.

"They're very difficult to detect," said Cmdr. Michael Emerson, the chief of the Coast Guard's anti-drug division. "And part of the problem is that we can't even respond to everything we do detect."

Because of a limit on the number of ships and aircraft, Coast Guard and Navy boats were able to pursue only about 50 of 66 suspect speedboats detected between July 1998 and July 1999, according to the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Furthermore, because of the speedboats low visual signature and radar-foiling tactics, U.S. anti-drug forces can detect only a fraction of the boats dashing to the United States.

Although the Coast Guard bemoans its $500 million anti-drug budget, which is padded by support from the military and other federal agencies, Congress awarded the service an additional $270 million in fiscal 1999 to improve radar, aircraft and increase coverage of transit zones. And while the Coast Guard says that's still insufficient to really clamp down on maritime drug traffic, critics say the nation is wasting its time and resources trying to halt the artful smugglers.

"Putting too much effort trying to interdict at our borders is a losing battle in itself," said Whitney Taylor, an analyst at The Drug Policy Foundation, a nonprofit group in Washington opposed to current drug policy. "There's no way to keep the drugs out of this country unless there's people standing shoulder to shoulder. We can't even keep drugs out of our prisons."

And as far as escalating the war on drugs by shooting suspect speedboats from helicopters, Taylor and other analysts say it's a risky policy that could leave unintended victims or invite a response from miffed traffickers.

"Where does it stop?" Taylor said. "Border patrols could get caught shooting civilians. How long will it be for the drug smugglers until they start shooting back? You're just asking the drug smugglers to arm themselves even more."

For their part, Coast Guard officials say they have very strict protocol over when a gunner is authorized to shoot. They say they only fire while pursuing fleeing drug runners who otherwise won't stop, and they take precautions to protect against return fire.

Furthermore, they argue the new policy is merely a common-sense measure to deter the growing glut of go-fasts, which have doubled in number since 1996, according to the White House's anti-drug office.

"Up to this point go-fasts have basically operated with impunity," said Capt. Gary Palmer, a Coast Guard liaison officer to the White House. "Smugglers will exploit whatever weaknesses we have. But in this area we have made a conscious decision not to be ineffective anymore."

While overall drug use in the United States is down, demand has increased for drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine and has remained consistent for cocaine.

Moreover, supply to the United States is increasing. In 1998, U.S. intelligence agencies detected 541 metric tons of cocaine shipped to the United States from South America, an increase by 110 metric tons from 1997, according to the White House anti-drug office.

Although the new measures may only make a dent in the incoming supply-only about 30 percent of all drug traffic to the United States passes through the Caribbean-Coast Guard officials tout their new get-tough strategy, which has so far netted 13 arrests and 2,600 pounds of drugs.

The go-fast boats, which travel at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour and cross the Caribbean in about 40 hours, represent an increasing threat that all too easily slips past U.S. defenses. And anti-drug officials say while efforts remain focused on defending other regions and further blunting demand for drugs, it's time to send go-fast runners a message.

"The priority remains reducing demand," said an aide to retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the director of the White House's anti-drug office. "But you can't ignore the supply side. It catches up with you after a while. That's why it's important to stop the go-fasts."

Copyright, Defense Week

War Games

Finding Flaws in Navy's Defense

By David Abel  |  Defense Week  |  3/1/1999

ABOARD USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT -- Steaming 24 stories above the choppy seas, ringed by an armada of destroyers, frigates and cruisers, and haloed by a swarm of the world's most fearsome jets, this brawny, 97,000-pound Nimitz-class aircraft carrier strikes an invincible pose.

But its aura of indestructibility quickly vanishes. A stealthy, sea-hugging cruise missile sees to that.

Early last Tuesday morning, while patrolling the Gulf of Sabani about 100 miles off the coast of Korona, an enemy frigate launched three cruise missiles against the Roosevelt. Two were shot down, but one evaded the ship's defenses. The missile slammed into the carrier's hull, killing five sailors and injuring 20. The carrier remained operational. Yet fire and flooding damaged gun mounts and at least two planes.

The attack, of course, wasn't real. It was part of the military's Joint Force Exercises, multimillion-dollar maneuvers based on fictional scenarios.

The exercises usually occur three times a year. This exercise, from the Virginia coast down to Puerto Rico, involved more than 24,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen from all the services and eight allied nations.

Still, was the missile's impact a sign of weakness in the carrier group's defenses? No, officials say, they planned it.

"What we wanted to do was cause a situation that would allow us to evaluate a process," said Capt. Mark Wahlstrom, the war-games director. "We use the attacks to test the reaction and see what we need to train further on."

The attack on the Roosevelt, which was preceded by similar barrages against other allied ships, was part of an elaborate mock conflict that began Feb. 12, when officials mobilized the Roosevelt's carrier battle group, the USS Kearsarge amphibious ready group, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and elements of the Air Force and Army.

The U.S. forces, joined by a flotilla of allied ships, responded to a fictional crisis purposely similar to conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East. In the game's scenario, the U.S.-led coalition moved into the "Gulf of Sabani" to enforce a United Nations' economic embargo against "Korona," a hostile nation launching repeated attacks against "Kartuna."

The conflict between the make-believe countries arose from a dispute over Kartuna's northern province called "Khemis." The scenario is further compiicated by a tangle of murky alliances and peripheral conflicts that force the allies to divert resources.

For example, Florida, which borders Korona on the south, claims neutrality but funnels weapons to Korona and fuels a revolution about 1,000 miles to the southeast on "Gordon Island." "Sabani," two imaginary islands about 200 miles off the coast of Korona and Florida, which also claims neutrality, ups the rhetoric against the coalition and blames U.S. warships for the sinking of a Sabani freighter.

"In any exercise there's a degree of artificiality," said Lt. Kary Brownlee, an intelligence officer aboard the Roosevelt between briefings. "There's a script, which makes it different. But it's the best way to test our capabilities. "

Controlling the battle

For most of this three-week exercise, the battle is prosecuted from the dimly lit command-and-control room in the belly of the command ship, USS Mount Whitney. There, representatives of the services and countries taking part in the battle coordinate strikes and the other operations.

"This is the most sophisticated command platform there is," said Cmdr. Haakon Tronstad, a Norwegian officer overseeing the battle. "We are in a position to know exactly where all our forces are and to direct them where they have to go."

The trying task of orchestrating thousands of people and machines to strike precise targets in a hostile environment has become easier in the past two years, Tronstad and other officials aboard the Whitney said. Web-based information technology has dramatically increased battle awareness by making it easier and faster for those on sea, land and in the air to view the same information.

It will soon get easier, if more expensive. The military introduced its latest command system, the Area Air Defense Commander module, for the first time during this exercise. In April, it will be installed on the Aegis cruiser, USS Shiloh.

The air-defense module, which was used from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., replaces current view screens with three-dimensional pictures of the battlefield. Instead of circles and squares, for example, a battle-watch commander will now be able to view graphics of enemy planes, boats and missiles.

Another novel dimension this exercise added to warfare is the "seamless" transfer of the Joint Forces Air Component Command, or air-war commander" from a sea-base platform to a land-based operations center. The purpose of shifting authority from the Whitney to a base on land is to bring the leadership closer to the battle, officials said.

"We are exercising to prepare if there's a threat somewhere else," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. W.L. "Spider" Nyland, who took over joint command of operations against "Korona" after enough room was cleared for operations to move onto enemy territory. "It's one of those niche capabilities."

Assessing performance
The exercise ends tomorrow, but officials already have begun assessing performance and devising plans for future exercises.

Yet knowing who killed whom, or who would have been killed in a particular confrontation, is more difficult than it would be in a real operation. Wahlstrom, the exercise's director, said at times he has to settle disputes between commanders about who shot first or whether a certain evasive measure would have indeed moved a ship or plane from harm's way.

The issue of success or failure was less abstract. Officials praised the military's performance.

"It's like the Super Bowl, and you’re up by 30 points at halftime," Nyland said.

Vice Adm. William Fallon, 2nd Fleet commander and the exercise's ultimate supervisor, said the war games demonstrated improvements in certain areas from previous training missions and areas where improvement is needed.

"The main hurdle is communication," Fallon said, "The reality is we have interoperability issues."

Previous exercises and missions have helped by allowing officers of the different services and nations to develop working relationships, he said. But participants must better integrate their software and systems, take full advantage of the military's new paperless communications system and better learn to understand different approaches, he added.

"This is the seed we're using to grow," Fallon said. "We're using the knowledge to provide a foundation. We're playing high tempo. This is not an elementary game. This is varsity level work."

Copyright, Defense Week

War Hurts War on Drugs

General: Kosovo Crisis Hampers War on Drugs

By David Abel  |  The Sun-Sentinel  |  5/1/1999

WASHINGTON -- The Kosovo crisis, this year's military pullout from Panama and the post-cold-war downsizing of the armed forces are hampering America's ability to monitor the byways traffickers use to ferry drugs into the United States, the commander-in-chief of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command testified before Congress.

"The continuing erosion of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets available to Southcom is compromising our ability to concentrate limited resources at the decisive time and place," Gen. Charles Wilhelm told the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee this week. "I'm not sure there is enough to go around even if we were in a normal cycle."

Before the Kosovo bombing began in late March, the Pentagon had "a flexible and comprehensive air and maritime detection and monitoring capability" covering transit zones from South America to the U.S. border, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, Brian Sheridan, told the panel.

While the number of resources removed from the area to supplement operations in Kosovo is classified, Wilhelm and Pentagon officials acknowledge continuous air surveillance provided by AWACS surveillance planes, strategic airlift capacity and a smattering of intelligence experts have been reduced.

"If you look around, all the CINCs (commanders-in-chiefs) have been stripped of certain items for Kosovo," Wilhelm said. "There were already 118 CINC-identified readiness-related deficiencies. Kosovo has exacerbated the problem."

Despite the military's $ 982 million anti-drug budget for fiscal 1999, officials who oversee the military's role in fighting drugs say the United States now has less than 50 percent of the personnel and equipment it employed in the region before 1990.

Normally, Southcom says, it can cover 50 percent of the region 50 percent of the time. With the Kosovo commitment, Wilhelm estimated the military can only monitor 15 percent of the drug-running corridor only 15 percent of the time.

Senior Pentagon officials say the Kosovo conflict has a negligible effect on the drug war. They argue the military, which plays only a supporting role in fighting drug traffickers, is deep enough to deal with multiple campaigns.

"There will be some diversion," said one senior Pentagon official who oversees the military's anti-drug efforts. "Does it affect the overall policy? No. It may no longer take three days to get something accomplished. It may now take two weeks. But it will get accomplished."

Increasing the difficulty of dealing with fewer resources is the confusion that comes with a reorganized Southcom. The 1977 Torrijos-Carter treaty obliges the United States to remove all its forces from Panama by Dec. 31. Critical elements of the military's anti-drug forces are being dispersed throughout Latin America.

All air operations will end today at Howard Air Force Base in Panama. Anti-drug sorties will be directed from Southcom's new headquarters in Miami, with flights hailing from new bases in Manta, Ecuador; Aruba and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles; and established bases in Puerto Rico and Key West, officials said.

Yet U.S. officials have yet to secure the long-term use of the bases. The United States has limited one-year agreements to operate in Aruba and Curacao, and each will require heavy investments -- beyond the budgeted $ 45 million, officials say -- to support the type of missions carried out from Panama.

Michael Vigil, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Puerto Rico, one of the most active transshipment points for drug traffickers in the Caribbean, said he's yet to feel the effect of the Kosovo crisis.

"I think it's a little too early to gauge the impact," Vigil said. "We haven't faced a major dilemma with a massive increase in illicit activities. But this may happen in the next few weeks."

Sitting ramrod in his Marine greens before subcommittee chairman Pat Roberts, Wilhelm explained how the tricky game of combating smugglers with limited resources is becoming increasingly difficult.

"The keys to success are flexible and agile operations based on timely and accurate intelligence," Wilhelm said. "This is emerging as our Achilles heel."

Fraud, Waste, Abuse

By David Abel
Defense Week

Unrealistic goals, poor accounting systems, and sweeping management failures continue to plague the Pentagon, according to a wide-ranging report released last week by the General Accounting Office.

The GAO report, "Major Management Challenges and Program Risks," outlines a broad spectrum of problems in the military's management, ranging from overpaying contractors for commercial spare parts to susceptible computer networks constantly attacked by hackers.

The report is part of a series that includes reviews of other federal agencies. While many of the problems were publicized in 1998, the report is significant because it encapsulates in 65 pages some of the Pentagon's most intractable problems.

Among the GAO's most jarring findings: auditors could not match about $22 billion in signed checks with corresponding obligations; $9 billion in known military materials and supplies were unaccounted for; and contractors received $19 million in overpayments.

"Despite DOD's military successes, many of DOD' s programs and operations are still vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, and need improvement," wrote David Walker, the GAO's comptroller general, in a preface to the report.

"Overcoming these challenges requires DOD to address their underlying causes, such as cultural barriers and service parochialism that limit opportunities for change and -- in some cases -- the lack of clear, results-oriented goals and performance measures," he wrote.

Decades of neglect
The Pentagon, charged with the trying task of controlling more than $1 trillion in assets and managing an annual budget of $267 billion, has struggled to overcome a raft of institutional flaws brought on by decades of neglect and a culture inimical to whistleblowers, the report says.

While officials at the Pentagon acknowledge their failings, they say they're addressing the problems and have already made improvements.

"The Department of Defense has been devoting significant attention to the areas for several years," said Susan Hansen, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "Certainly, we are paying attention to them, and we feel as though we have made progress on them."

The GAO breaks down the Pentagon's problems into two areas: systemic management shortcomings in the areas of finances, contracts, information, and weapon systems acquisition and failures in managing inventory, personnel, and property.

Sloppy booksThe report begins by acknowledging that the massive size of the military -- 1.4 million soldiers and civilians, 15 percent of the nation's budget, and vast stocks of advanced weapons -- makes it difficult to manage.

Nonetheless, the most recent audits of Pentagon financial statements show serious record-keeping flaws in fiscal 1997. For example, recorded information on the number and location of military equipment such as F-4 engines was unreliable. Also, available inventory differed from what officials recorded at several major locations by 23 percent, the report says.

The Pentagon's sketchy accounting methods are compounded by human error, the report found. A GAO survey of 1,400 Defense Department upper-level financial managers found more than half had no financial or budget-related training.

The inventory failures mean the Pentagon doesn't know what it can send to troops, can't avoid buying more of something the military already owns, and can't tell how much its programs actually cost, the report says.

'Most immediate challenge'
The report also questions whether the Pentagon will be able to reprogram its computers before the onset of Y2K, the inability of computers to correctly interpret recorded dates in 2000. With more than 1.5 million computers, 28,000 systems, and 10,000 networks, solving Y2K is the Defense Department's "most immediate challenge," the report says.

But the Pentagon is unlikely to solve its Y2K problems in time, the GAO says. In November, the Office of Management and Budget placed the Defense Department on its "Tier 1" list, those agencies with "insufficient evidence of adequate progress."

The department's glut of technology has brought a growing number of attacks against its computer systems. There are now more than 100,000 attacks every year, and 65 percent of the hackers are successful in either stealing, modifying, or destroying data and software, the report says.

"Numerous DOD functions have been adversely affected, including weapons and supercomputer research, logistics, finance, procurement, personnel management, military health and payroll," the report says.

'Overly optimistic' budgets
Pervasive problems also continue to plague the Pentagon's $85 billion annual effort to develop and buy weapons. Too often, the Pentagon's systems duplicate the missions of existing ones, the report says. Also, the Pentagon often sets unrealistic development schedules and performance estimates, doesn't consider alternative options or consult the services, and pays before a system is proven.

For example, the Pentagon bought too many C-17s, lost about $700 million by not buying Blackhawk helicopters in the same year and over-estimated the number of Longbow Hellfire missiles needed, according to the report.

The auditors added that defense officials have "overly optimistic" budget projections. The report cast doubt on whether the Air Force would be able to offset the $13 billion projected increase in the cost of the F-22 fighter program, if attack submarines would stick to their budgets, and whether the stated cost ofthe B-2 bomber was accurate.

In the end, the report cites five underlying causes of the Pentagon's persisting problems: a culture opposed to change; too few incentives for those seeking reforms; unclear goals; a lack of reliable data for measuring program costs and performance; and poor management.

Sagging 'Psyops' Power

'Psyops' Readiness Doubted; Equipment called 'Antiquated'

By David Abel  |  
The Boston Globe  |  10/18/2001

Psychological operations, or "psyops" in Pentagon parlance, have long been potent weapons in the US arsenal, from signaling civilians to flee an area to be bombed in Vietnam to hounding a Panamanian dictator from his hiding place with loud music.

Military analysts say propaganda is especially critical in a war against those isolated from Western views and infused with a dogmatic hatred for the United States.

But is the military up to the task?

A Pentagon report commissioned after psyops failures in the 1999 Kosovo conflict criticized the military for failing to keep pace with advances in electronic communications. It also called the equipment the Air Force is now using to broadcast radio and perhaps TV messages to Afghans "outdated and inadequate."

Other critics question the value of dropping thousands of leaflets on Afghanistan, a nation where little more than 30 percent of its nearly 27 million people can read.

"The ability for us to get out our message is a huge issue right now in Afghanistan and in the rest of the Arab world," said Jerrold Post, a professor of political psychology at George Washington University who specializes in psychological warfare.

"Unfortunately, we have been woefully inadequate in psychological operations, meaning inhibiting people from entering terrorist groups, creating dissension in them, facilitating their exit, and reducing support for them."

In the May 2000 report by the Defense Science Board Task Force, an advisory panel that briefs the defense secretary, the authors focused their criticism on the Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, which supervises most of the military's psyops and is playing a major role in overseeing the attack on Afghanistan.

"While the United States is years ahead of its competitors in terms of military technology, in terms of psyops there are already competitors on par with or even arguably more sophisticated than the US," the authors wrote.

In response to glitches during the Kosovo conflict, in which the military failed to take over Serbian radio and TV broadcasts, the board called it ironic that the United States "leads the world in commercial media technology and development," while its military psychological operations units maintain an outdated Cold War structure with "antiquated equipment and limited financial support."

A prime example of the problems cited in the report is the equipment used by Commando Solo, the 193d Special Operations Wing, an Air National Guard unit based in Middletown, Pa.

The unit's old aircraft have been flying around the borders of Afghanistan in recent days, beaming radio programs in the local languages of Pashtu and Dari that disparage Osama bin Laden and call on soldiers to lay down their arms and defect from the Taliban, special operations officials say.

According to one broadcast released by military officials, a radio message being beamed from Commando Solo explains to Afghans:

"We have no wish to hurt you, the innocent people of Afghanistan. Stay away from military installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories, or bridges. If you are near these places, then you must move away from them. With your help, this conflict can be over soon. And once again, Afghanistan will belong to you, and not to tyrants or outsiders."

"This is really nonsense," said Jarat Chopra, a professor of international law at Brown University, who has helped administer similar psyops campaigns while working for the United Nations in East Timor. "This is just a shallow form of propaganda."

While Afghanistan does not have the jamming ability of Serbs, the US military will have challenges broadcasting its message. The National Guard unit's lumbering EC-130 Hercules cargo planes - most of them built in the 1960s - are slow and can't fly at altitudes above 30,000 feet, so they are unlikely to fly inside Afghanistan. And they use equipment that TV and radio stations stopped using more than a decade ago.

"They're not using rotary phones, but these planes are definitely no longer state of the art," said Army Lieutenant Colonel Michael M. Smith, psychological operations policy officer at Special Operations Command. "In the military, especially for psyops, as long as it works, it's not antiquated."

The Pentagon had planned to upgrade the EC-130 aircraft this summer, but Commando Solo's one new plane is still being refitted in California, with much of the same old equipment.

In last year's report, the advisory board also recommended that the Pentagon upgrade the unit's ability to use special unmanned aircraft that can loiter over enemy areas for as long as 24 hours without returning. But that's yet to happen as well.

"Psyops never gets the respect it deserves," said Rick Hoffmann, a former psyops soldier in Vietnam who is now president of the Psychological Operations Veterans Association in Wilmington, Del. "The military spends most of its time on hardware, but there's a lot more necessary to win wars. Dropping leaflets is only part of it, and can only be helpful in places where the messages are understood and read properly."

In Afghanistan, the military is dropping leaflets, a propaganda barrage delayed because of windy weather conditions, Pentagon officials said.

Similar campaigns were successful in previous wars the nation has fought. In Vietnam, US planes peppered Viet Cong-controlled areas with playing cards showing only the ace of spades before bombers and artillery hit. After a while, just dropping cards from the air was enough to clear an area. In Iraq, US forces dropped leaflets along the front lines warning soldiers that heavy bombers were on the way. After delivering on the threat, Iraqi soldiers surrendered in droves the next time the leaflets were dropped.

On Sunday, B-52 bombers dropped 385,000 dollar-bill sized leaflets over the northwestern and southeastern regions of Afghanistan, military officials acknowledged this week.

One leaflet shows a camouflaged soldier in a pastoral setting shaking hands with a man in traditional Afghan dress. On the front, it says, "The partnership of nations is here to help"; on the back, it says, "The partnership of nations is here to assist the people of Afghanistan."

"People are not that stupid," Chopra of Brown said. "Just because people can't read doesn't mean that they don't have another perspective. The bottom line is that people are not as shallow as the message that's fed to them."

But those messages are part of a campaign that includes daily news conferences by US officials repeating specific messages, interviews with Arab broadcasters, and nearly 300,000 American-flag-covered food packets dropped over Afghanistan since the attacks began Oct. 7.

At a Pentagon briefing this week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld explained the information battle between the United States and its nemesis, Al Qaeda.

"They are trying to manipulate world opinion in a way that is advantageous to them and disadvantageous to us," he told reporters. "And we need to do everything we can to make sure the truth gets out."

David Abel can be reached by e-mail at